Your 5-step website development action plan.

Making the decision to have a new website is the easy bit. Delivering it takes time and effort but – done right – it can be fun, rewarding and pay dividends for your business. If this is your first time planning a website project, or it’s been a while, this 5-step action plan should help you feel more prepared for the job.

1. Set yourself some goals.

Many of the clients we speak to have specific reasons for wanting to redevelop their websites, the most common being:

  • Outdated design or no longer fit for purpose, competitor sites are better
  • We’ve rebranded so need a new site
  • It has user experience issues such as clumsy or broken navigation, doesn’t work well on mobile or has functionality issues
  • It’s slow loading
  • It doesn’t rank well in search results
  • It’s too difficult to update / can’t be updated
  • We’d like to add e-commerce or some other functionality
  • We want better integration with our social channels

Whatever the reason, it’s important that you have a set of clear, measurable goals for your website redesign. If you simply want a swanky new website you are focusing on the wrong thing and are likely to be disappointed with the outcome.

Start by thinking about the purpose of your new website. What are you aiming to achieve through the redesign? Is it to sell more, raise awareness of your business, promote key services, attract new talent, launch into a new market or to be bigger, better and bolder than the competition?

Once you have decided on the purpose of your website, it’s time to set your goals. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just write ‘to grow sales’, instead your goal should look more like this:

Goal: to increase sales of [product or category x] through our online shop by [x%] within [x time period].

If the purpose of your redesign is to create more awareness of your business, you may be more interested in visitor behaviour. In this instance one of your goals could be:

Goal: increase time on [x] page(s) by [x] and grow number of pages read per visit to [x]

Both of these goals are measurable and actionable, and aligned to the wider purpose of your website redesign.

2. Do your research.

Stakeholders: Identify who your stakeholders are and talk to them to find out what they need from your website, what’s important to them. Holding a workshop is an effective and fun way of finding this out.

Customers: Holding a separate workshop with your customers will help uncover what is wrong with your current website and therefore what needs to be changed by the redesign. You might want to find out what content is important to them and their preferences for how they use your website: such as their preferred method of contacting you, the type of content they are looking for and how they prefer to find it.

Competitor research: If you’ve not taken a look at your competitors lately now is a good time to have a nose through their websites. While you’re at it, gather inspiration from a variety of websites for common features like use of video, pricing pages, check out pages, team profiles, company bios, contact forms etc.

Review your current website: If you’re planning a website redesign it’s likely you’ve fallen out of love with your current website. Don’t commit it to the scrapheap just yet. Take the opportunity to review your web analytics: which pages are the most visited, where are visitors dropping off, how did they arrive at your site? Also review behaviour and conversion metrics. You don’t want to throw out the good bits or repeat old mistakes with your new design.

3. Requirements and scope.

By this point you will have gathered information about how your current website is performing, identified goals, found out what stakeholders need and what your customers want. Now you need to create a Requirements Document, also called a Functional or Technical Specifications Document.

A Requirements Document is a description of what your website needs to do and aligns your business with your creative and technical teams. This document helps puts everyone working on the project on the same page and provides a handy checklist to make sure that nothing gets left out.

The functional spec, along with a sitemap (a diagram showing web pages and how they connect to each other), are the core documents you need for selecting and briefing your design team. Your design and build team will use these documents to make an estimate of the time needed to develop the website. The better and more detailed the Requirements Document, the more accurate the estimate and therefore your budget.

Examples of functional requirements include: a contact form, search, perhaps your visitors need to be able to create a favourites list or save a basket for checkout later, register or sign-in… In this document, you will also need to define any technical requirements such as the Content Management System (CMS), security or legal compliance, payment gateways or database integration requirements.

4. Design and Build.

You’ve worked hard planning your website so here’s the fun bit. There’s not a lot for you to do at this point as your website will now be in the hands of the designers. Hopefully you will have selected an agency with good communication skills who regularly keeps you up-to-date on how the project is progressing and whether it is running to time.

It is likely that your business will have its own process for communicating progress with stakeholders. Make sure you set expectations with your team as to when they can expect to be included in review points and what kind of feedback you are expecting. If you have included all stakeholders in the planning phase and you have a well-defined plan you shouldn’t need to worry about ‘scope creep’ – this is when additional features are added after the requirements have been agreed. When stakeholders see concepts or early designs they can sometimes want additional features added. Scope creep can add to the time it takes to design and build a website and therefore your budget.

5. Launch and analyse.

Once your website has been built your design and build team will take care of fully testing your website across devices, screen sizes and web browsers. You’ll probably also want to do your own testing as this is a good way of getting to know your new website. Once live, it will likely fall to you to measure the success of the redeveloped website.

When the site is stable and has been live for a few months you can begin analysing how successful the redesign has been. It may take several months to gather enough data to demonstrate success so make sure to track your metrics identified in step 2 over at least 3 months so you can look for any positive trend changes.

Analysing results on an ongoing basis also gives you the ability to tweak your website over time and make it even better – this is called website optimisation. Website analytics and user experience research, sales data and customer feedback will all help you find opportunities to tweak your sales funnels, amend calls to action, insert even better imagery, change colours, optimise for search etc.

So, there you have it, a quick 5-step guide to getting your website redesign project off the ground. It’s not an exhaustive list so if you still need help with your redesign get in touch.